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Adam Bede

George Eliot

Book First: Chapters 13–16

Book First: Chapters 9–12

Book Second: Chapters 17–21

Summary: Chapter 13

Hetty walks home by the same route in the woods through which she came. At every turn, she hopes and prays to see Captain Donnithorne, but he is not there. She becomes so anxious that she begins to cry. She finally comes upon Captain Donnithorne, who is waiting for her. When Captain Donnithorne sees Hetty’s tears, he asks her what is wrong, and she says that she was afraid he would not come. He is so moved that he kisses her. Immediately after he kisses her, something bitter seems to come between them. When they part at the gate, Captain Donnithorne seems sad, as he reflects on how much his emotions have gotten the better of him. He resolves to go to Mr. Irwine in the morning and tell him everything and in so doing to cleanse himself of the wrong he has committed.

Summary: Chapter 14

Dinah bids farewell to the Bede family, and Seth walks with her most of the way home. Adam and Lisbeth watch them leave, speculating on whether Dinah will ever come to love Seth. Adam thinks she will, and Lisbeth thinks not. Along the way, Dinah and Seth meet Hetty, and Seth turns back to his own home after shaking hands with Dinah. When they arrive at Hall Farm, Martin Poyser greets them, and they all go in to have dinner. Hetty tries to refuse food, but she capitulates when Mrs. Poyser forces her. The Poysers ask Hetty to take Totty from Mrs. Poyser so that Mrs. Poyser can get some rest, but Hetty makes no effort to soothe the child. Dinah comes to Mrs. Poyser’s aid and puts Totty to bed. The whole family goes to bed.

Summary: Chapter 15

In her room, Hetty sneaks out some candles that she purchased at the fair and lights them so that she can see herself in the mirror. She puts on some large, glass earrings and a black shawl in an attempt to make herself look like a grand lady. She struts around the room daydreaming about the life she could have as Captain Donnithorne’s wife. The narrator reflects that Hetty’s physical beauty, although beguiling to most men, Adam included, may not indicate that she has a gentle nature. Meanwhile, in the room next door, Dinah sits looking out her window at the peaceful moonlit hills. She prays for Hetty and becomes so worried about her that she decides to go to her and impart some wisdom. Dinah goes and knocks on Hetty’s door, startling Hetty. The two girls talk for a short time. Dinah tries to warn Hetty that life will not always be easy and that she should seek God in good times so that she can lean on him in bad times. Hetty, however, is too upset to receive the advice gently and becomes hysterical and snaps at Dinah to get out.

Summary: Chapter 16

Captain Donnithorne sets out to have breakfast with Mr. Irwine and tell him about what happened with Hetty. On the road, he meets Adam, who is walking to work. Adam treats Captain Donnithorne with great respect, in part because of his rank and because he believes he will be a good manager. They recall the days when Captain Donnithorne played with Adam, who is five years older. Captain Donnithorne offers to finance Adam anytime he wants to start his own business. Adam declines for now. Captain Donnithorne says to Adam that he thinks Adam could beat him in a fight and that he must never have internal struggles. Adam agrees that once he has made up his mind about something, he generally does not struggle over the issue anymore. Then Captain Donnithorne continues on to Mr. Irwine’s house. At breakfast with Mr. Irwine, he comes close to revealing his affair with Hetty but does not tell Mr. Irwine. Instead, he merely philosophizes that a man who struggles with his good intentions cannot really be a bad man. Mr. Irwine suspects that Captain Donnithorne wants to tell him something important, but he does not push the issue any further and makes some general statements about the nature of a one’s character.

Analysis: Chapters 13–16

Totty, like the dogs throughout the book, is significant in how the other characters treat her, revealing much about themselves in their actions. Hetty has nothing but impatience for Totty, despite the fact that for her Totty represents an important household duty. In fact, later in her room, Hetty reflects on what an inconvenience Totty is. She views Totty has nothing but a nuisance and thinks the Poysers make too much of a fuss over the child. Hetty’s impatience and her inability or unwillingness to focus on Totty’s needs reflect her own deep-seated selfishness and shortsightedness. Captain Donnithorne uses Totty as a pawn in his efforts to get closer to Hetty by asking Mrs. Poyser to bring her to him, not because he wants to see Totty but because he wants to be alone with Hetty. His use of Totty reflects his greater sense that the world is only a tool for him and that other people are only important in so far as they offer a means of attaining further greatness. Dinah, by contrast, receives Totty lovingly and gently. She coaxes Totty into doing the right thing, in this case going to bed so Mrs. Poyser can get some rest, with tenderness. Her treatment of Totty is emblematic of her treatment of everyone. Dinah respects other characters’ deeper motivations and helps them to want to do right, rather than forcing them to do it. Mrs. Poyser is over-indulgent of Totty, as she is of all those she loves. Totty is an important character in the novel, then, even though she never speaks except in silly childish phrases, because she illuminates the characters of the other people in the novel.

The contrast between Hetty’s and Dinah's nighttime activities reflects the difference in their characters, and that difference will lead to the difference in their fates. Hetty’s vanity and self-absorption lead her to make bad decisions and suffer the consequences, whereas Dinah’s gentle nature encourages her to go to Hetty now in an attempt to comfort her. Here, before the main tragedy of the novel, Eliot makes clear that the two women could not be more different, a fact that becomes especially important when they become the two main women in Adam’s life. Whereas Hetty prances before her own beauty, Dinah sits calmly and admires the beauty of the landscape. Whereas Hetty lights her room with furtive candles, Dinah looks out at the world by moonlight. Whereas Hetty rejects Totty, Dinah is naturally nurturing and maternal. In all ways, Dinah is the more natural, more selfless person. Her love of the world and whatever she finds in it contrasts sharply with Hetty’s need to change her position in the world. Clearly, Hetty is headed toward disaster and Dinah is headed to domestic tranquility. This distinction makes Adam’s ultimate marriage to Dinah a happy culmination of the novel.

The relationship between Adam and Captain Donnithorne is a complex mix of respect, affection, and disparity of social position. Adam’s admiration of Captain Donnithorne makes up an important part of the disappointment and betrayal Adam feels when he learns of Captain Donnithorne’s affair with Hetty. Adam feels for Captain Donnithorne as one does for a childhood friend, but Captain Donnithorne maintains at all times toward Adam a sense of superiority based entirely on his class and wealth. Captain Donnithorne treats Adam like he does most of the peasantry in the parish—almost as a favored animal. Captain Donnithorne does not mean to hurt anyone, but it is through his arrival in Hayslope that the story takes a turn. Although he is unaware of Adam’s feelings for Hetty when beginning the affair, he does not take them seriously when Adam reveals how he feels. Instead, Captain Donnithorne views Adam, his elder, as a child, whose feelings are amusing, even adorable, but not to be given much weight. Adam, by contrast, always wants to see the best in Captain Donnithorne, and that desire is a big part of why Adam is able to reform a semblance of a friendship with him at the end of the novel. What Adam loses is his sense of awe at Captain Donnithorne’s authority.

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